Progress 2024: Maplesville Tradition — Red Devils’ program built into one of Alabama’s best

Published 1:55 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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This story was originally featured in Progress 2024.

Story by Carey Reeder | Photos by Carey Reeder & Brandon Sumrall

Nestled in western Chilton County sits one of Alabama’s most prestigious and winningest high school football programs. Maplesville High School has set the bar in recent decades when it comes to consistency within a program, and the Red Devils do not seem to be slowing down their deep-rooted tradition of winning any time soon.

While many programs in the state can say they have had a run of sustained success, only a handful can say they have done it as long, and as well, as Maplesville.

“We all know what Maplesville football is about, so we do not try to reinvent something that has been successful for 20-25 years,” Brad Abbott, Maplesville head coach, said in an interview in 2022. “It is about what you can add to what has already been done here. We talk about defending the brand because you are defending what has already been done, and not losing the luster of what has been accomplished.”

Maplesville was a powerhouse in the 1990s under head coach Jim Hubbert with the coach going 113-34 in the decade and winning the school’s first state title in 1996. His son, Brent Hubbert, took over the program in 2004 and proceeded to surpass his father going 166-26 and winning three state championships consecutively from 2014-2016.

Now, Abbott has been leading the program for five seasons and compiled a 45-17 record, making the state playoffs every season and winning at least one playoff game each season as well. Even years when the program seems to be down, like when they go 8-5 in 2023 compared to undefeated seasons of past years, they still find a way to make magic happen at some point — like at Sweet Water High School last season.

No one gave the 7-4 Red Devils a chance on the road at one of their biggest playoff rivals, not with the team they had. Maplesville blocked out the outside noise and upset Sweet Water 28-21 to advance to the quarterfinals of the AHSAA Class 1A state playoffs.

“It was a big win for me as a head coach, but as a Maplesville person, graduate, ex-player and fan at heart, this was a big win period even if I was sitting in the stands,” Abbott said in an interview following the game. “For our kids to silence the naysayers who said ‘You cannot go down there with this team.’ For them to block out the noise, believe that they could and go down there and do it was a big win for me as far as my career, but it is a big win for that memory of kids buying into something, believing in something and receiving the reward of the hard work,” Abbott said following Maplesville’s 2nd round playoff win last season.

Aside from the mystic and legends of the program, even the stats will back up the prescience of the Maplesville football program in the history of Alabama high school football. The school has the 31st best winning percentage in Alabama since World War II — 889 games, 591-285, a 67.5% winning percentage. The program has only been better in recent years, having the eighth-best winning percentage in Alabama since 2000 — 331 games, 262-69, a 79.2% winning percentage. The program’s 622 wins in its history is 24th most in state history as well.

Even in single-season records, Maplesville seasons are scattered throughout the history books. The program compiled two separate historic regular season winning streaks, the first winning 28-straight regular season games from 2009-2012. The game after the streak was broken, Maplesville started a 29-game regular season winning streak that lasted from 2012-2015. The streaks were separated by one loss, which without it, would have been 57-straight wins and the second-longest streak in state history, just six games behind Fyffe High School from 2015-2021.

“The community and everyone buys in here, and they love football,” Undra Rush, Maplesville graduate and current assistant football coach, said. “You are trying to uphold something that has been there for decades because your brother played, your cousin, and you are trying to follow in their footsteps. It is in our blood from kindergarten, and we want to keep this tradition alive.”

Other records Maplesville holds in the state books include 50 consecutive region wins from 2009-2017, the fourth-longest streak in state history. The most points scored in a single quarter after posting 55 points in the first quarter against Barbour County High School on Sept. 3, 2021. The program also holds the state record for most total touchdowns in a season with 116 in 15 games in 1996, and the second fewest total yardage per game given up in a season with 95.6 YPG surrendered in 14 games in 2016.

Defense has been a calling card for the program for many years, and the side of the ball the program hangs its hat on to be remembered by.

“Our mindset has always been defense — physical, aggressive, making sure teams remember us when they walk off the field,” Rush said. “We always want to make the community proud, and they have our backs to come watch every day so we need to put on a show for them. It is family, and one of those things that has been there for a long, long time.”

In the state playoffs, the program ascends to a different level. With 39 appearances in the postseason, Maplesville has a record of 91-35, a 72.2% winning percentage, and are 34-5 in round one and 28-6 in round two. Their 91 playoff wins are fifth-most in state history, and are one of only eight teams to win three consecutive state titles.

Maplesville’s impact stretches to the next levels of football as well, starting at the college level putting tens of its players at universities across the country. Many of those players had stellar college careers, but some were fortunate to stand out a bit more and land spots in the NFL.

Maplesville running back Tommie Agee was an All-State performer at Maplesville before attending Auburn University. Agee was roommates with fellow running back Bo Jackson at Auburn and he was utilized mostly as a lead blocker for Jackson. Agee excelled enough to be selected in the fifth round, 119th overall, of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He spent time with the Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys, winning two Super Bowl rings with Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII. Agee was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

Harold Morrow was the next Maplesville football player to reach the NFL after attending Auburn in the 1990s. He played for the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals from 1996-2005.

While there has not been another Maplesville player in the NFL since Morrow, the program has another stud player on the precipice of the NFL in Nathaniel “Bookie” Watson. Watson was an All-State player at Maplesville and excelled at Mississippi State University from 2018-2023, being named All-SEC First Team in 2023, and winning the 2023 AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year award, leading the conference in tackles (137) and sacks (10). Watson is the only player to ever lead the SEC in both tackles and sacks in the same season. Watson picked up multiple All-SEC and All-American honors during his time at Mississippi State as well prior to 2023.

Watson participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile on Feb. 3 where multiple outlets, including and Bleacher Report, reported his NFL Draft stock increasing. Maplesville residents will find out on April 25-27 at the 2024 NFL Draft if they will have their next player in the NFL.

Nevertheless, the legend and lore of the Maplesville football program cannot be ignored, and the goal for the program in the future is the same thing it has done 591 times since World War II.

“We do not know anything else but to win, and we expect to win,” Rush said.